No criminal charges in CHSLD Herron case after investigation into COVID-19 deaths
MONTREAL -- There will be no criminal charges laid relating to CHSLD Herron, a long-term care facility in Dorval on Montreal's West Island, after 47 people died during a COVID-19 outbreak at the home.
The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) concludes that after a "rigorous analysis of the evidence available" by four prosecutors, there is not enough proof to show a criminal offence took place.
"Based on the requirements for the sufficiency of evidence for criminal prosecution, the prosecutors concluded that the evidence did not support the laying of charges," the DPCP stated Thursday. "This decision in no way trivializes the tragic events that occurred at CHLSD Herron, nor does it mean that no civil or ethical wrongdoing may have occurred."
The prosecutors looked at evidence gathered by the Montreal police during its investigation, as well as additional information and medical expertise from other sources.
"What happened at [CHSLD] Herron is totally unacceptable," said Premier François Legault Thursday, insisting the government has already made some changes -- and promises to continue doing so -- to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again. "Regarding criminal charges, it's not my responsibility. They studied; I didn't look at all the details of what happened. Like I said, it's totally unacceptable."
The DPCP states it sympathizes with the families of the deceased, "who must not only mourn the loss of their loved ones, but also regret not having been able to be at their bedside during the pandemic."
It notes that it has informed all the families concerned of the decision not to press charges.
The private residence was among the hardest hit in Quebec when COVID-19 arrived in the province.
A damning report last spring by three Quebec professional orders overseeing health care workers, found the situation at CHSLD Herron was "out of control."
At one point, there was only one nurse left to care for the home's more than 100 residents, it stated, since workers had been told to stay home if they showed symptoms of COVID-19 or had come into contact with someone who tested positive.
The report notes by March, 11 of the 12 nurses at the home had contracted the virus.
"This instruction was given without regard as to whether there was enough staff to meet basic care and support needs," the report argues, adding staffing shortages meant a deterioration of care, leaving many elderly residents dehydrated or in soiled clothing for long periods of time.
Following a class action lawsuit over the mass deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, residents of CHSLD Herron reached a $5.5 million settlement with management, who did not admit liability.
The agreement was signed in March and provides for the payment of compensation to be shared with the estates of the deceased, their spouses or children, as well as residents who survived the deadly outbreak.
The class action alleged that residents were deprived of care and neglected in the context of the pandemic and they deserved compensation for the way they were treated.
The residence has since closed and a coroner's inquest into the deaths is slated to begin Sept. 7.